Cat lover Calla Knopman with her cat, Nicky, in 2012.

by Len Lear

In her day job, Calla Knopman is a “data integration practitioner” for The Hackett Group in Conshohocken, which provides digital transformation services to global companies. For those who may share my ignorance about such arcane matters, data integration is “the art of converting bits of data into information that can be used to make informed decisions.” Calla also opened her own IT consulting firm in 2004.

But when she is not working with such technological head-scratchers, she is involved with something that most of us mere mortals can understand: the love of cats. In fact, Calla, 56, of Ambler, is a volunteer for Brenda’s Cat Rescue, which found homes for more than 120 rescued cats this year and whose photos of cats that need homes appear every week in the Local, and she is the author of the recently published book, “Measure Your Cat’s IQ: Tales from the Devilish Genius to the Feeble Minded Fuzzball.”

Knopman, a feline behavior specialist graduate of the accredited online school, the Animal Behavior Institute (in addition to her degrees in chemistry and computer programming from more traditional colleges), grew up on the Main Line and graduated from Harriton High School in Rosemont. She moved to Ambler five years ago “to be close to my brother, sister-in-law and 13-year-old nephew, who are two blocks away.

“My beautiful mother, Phyllis Meltzer, visits shelters with me and falls in love with a different cat every time. My brothers Martin and Ron, sister-in-law Pam and nephew Jacob help socialize the feral cats and kittens I bring home and help feed and comfort them when I need to jump on a plane for work. I may be biased, but I have the best family and friends.”

Knopman, who also has a new business called KitCatCare.org for feline behavior care and nutritional advice, has always loved animals, “but felines hold a very special place in my heart. I was so entranced with my family’s cats that on my 10th birthday, my mom gave me a kitten of my own. That was Butterscotch, who is mentioned a couple of times in my book and taught me much about cat intelligence and cognitive ability.

“What I love about cats is how bright and intuitive they are. Felines can also be manipulative, but they give us signals to let us know what is coming if we are paying attention. The verbal and non-verbal cues are indicators of thought processes and intent. The cat is going to lunge because its ears are back and tail low and twitching, or the cat is happy and satisfied with its ears straight up, tail up approaching you. Understanding how to read your cat will help you anticipate reactions and plan responses for a more satisfying relationship with your cat.”

Many people love cats but don’t write books about them. What prompted this high techie to do it? “For years I have had funny stories and tales of cats outthinking both humans and other animals percolating. I think it came to a head when I had a debate with my brother on which was smarter, the cat or the dog. That was my final motivating factor.

“I think I have been writing and researching for this book all my life, but once I began the formal process, I completed it in roughly six months. One thing I discovered in the course of writing the book that surprised me is that cats in different countries actually ‘meow’ differently. Interesting isn’t it?”

“Cat’s IQ” is currently being offered as “on demand printing” with Amazon. It is available on Amazon as well as in a Kindle edition. Knopman also has author copies that are available for purchase during “Meet the Author” events at key pet stores and conferences.

“Most people let me know how much they enjoyed the stories and how funny the cats are,” said Knopman. “I often get asked how I came up with the range of kitty intelligence types of Devilish Genius, Psycho Superior, Average, Borderline Baby and Feeble-Minded Fuzzball.”

One reader, Donna Nahass, wrote that “You have an uncanny understanding and interpretation of cat behavior and can actually tell us their thoughts with intriguing and exciting flair!”

What was the hardest thing Knopman ever had to do?

“Euthanize a beloved pet named PM in 2007. Regardless of my desire to do whatever possible to keep PM with me, I had to make peace with the fact that she would never recover and was in pain that was only going to get worse over time. She was 21 years old. She knew and gave her paw to the vet. PM looked into my eyes, and we stared at each other blinking while the doctor completed the injection. I stayed and petted and kissed her till the end. I am still crying and miss her.”

Knopman admits she has no artistic skills, but her next project, “Gabby the Detective,” is a children’s picture book of her cat Gabby solving cases.

“Fortunately, I met a wonderful woman at Brenda’s Cat Rescue who is also a wonderful artist and is willing to collaborate. We hope to launch the new book series in the first quarter of 2020.”

For more information, visit KITCatCare.org. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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